Why Congress could not defeat Modi’s BJP?

By Kaleem Kawaja

In the wake of the just concluded Gujarat State Assembly election that Modi’s Gujarat state BJP won, some people have said that if Congress party had tried real hard it could have defeated Modi’s BJP. Is that a credible statement? Let us analyze the political background and the
ground realities.

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A few weeks before the polling many election observers had noted that Modi’s BJP will win; the factors being.

a. A very large number of Gujarati Hindus are excellent people and very fair to minorities. Yet, the majority of Hindus of Gujarat being anti-minority is a fact that goes back several decades to 1947, including the lifetime of Mahatma Gandhi. Even in his lifetime, in Gujarat Gandhi was less popular among Hindus than Vallabhbai Patel. More institutions in Gujarat are named after Sardar Patel than after Gandhi.

b. The pre-BJP Congress in Gujarat too catered to pro-Hinduttava sentiments; although they were not violent against Muslims & Christians.

c. The population of Muslims in Gujarat is barely 9%; most of them live in urban areas; very few live in rural areas. So their electoral weight is not much.

d. Modi and his cohorts have greatly exploited all ugly incidents happening in India as being the handiwork of Pakistan that shares its border with Gujarat. He has totally brainwashed Gujarati Hindus against Muslims and has put fear of Muslims in their minds by years of continual degrading statements against Muslims. Look how in the current election he exploited the name of Ahmad Patel as Mian Ahmad Patel and said that Congress wants to make a Mian the chief Minister of Gujarat. Was that not fear mongering?

e. Modi did bring some development in industries & infrastructure in Gujarat.

f. Majority of Gujarati Hindus do not pay that much attention to the human rights of Muslims, whom Modi has painted as evil.

g. Despite all this, Modi’s BJP won 115 Assembly seats in 2012 against 117 in 2007, and 127 in 2002 – a continuing decline in seats won. He fell much short of his own 2012 target of 125 seats in the Gujarat Assembly.

It is true that if Congress had tried substantially harder and had spent much more money, they could have won another 5 to 10 seats.

With their all-India calculation of money and strategy for 2014 and knowing well that they were not going to get seats more than or equal to Modi’s BJP, they choose not to make Gujarat election a do- or- die contest. Muslims will like Congress to make a do- or- die issue of Gujarat because of Modi’s 2002 atrocities, but Congress does not think in those terms.

Does not BJP adopt a similar strategy in Assam, Bengal, UP, AP or such other states where their opponents are very strong? So this is real politic.

The Muslim community should analyze the facts and circumstances of the 2012 election before swallowing an incredible/emotional line that someone may give us.

Muslims have to learn how to deal with Congress and how to pressurize it for our interests but we should not hit Congress in the face. Muslims have electoral strength in Assam, Bengal, Bihar, UP, Kerala, and some parts of AP, Karnatak and Maharashtra. In other states (Gujarat,
Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, small NE states) our population is about 5% (9% in Gujarat). So we have to strategize accordingly.

In the post Gujarat election Muslims have to develop a strong all-India strategy to isolate Modi in Gujarat state and not let him be a leader anywhere outside Gujarat. That should be our clear target.

Kaleem Kawaja is a community activist based in Washington, DC.